WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Thursday made good on a post-election promise to meet with his Republican rival Mitt Romney to pick his brain.
Obama and former the Massachusetts governor and GOP presidential nominee met for lunch privately at the White House to discuss the U.S. leadership position in the world and the importance of maintaining that position.
The men dined on white turkey chili and southwestern grilled chicken salad, the White House said.
At his first news conference after the election, Obama said he wanted to meet with Romney to discuss ways they could work together on this nation's problems.
"There're certain aspects of Governor Romney's record and his ideas that I think could be very helpful," Obama said during a Nov. 14 news conference, citing in particular Romney's success in running the Salt Lake City Olympics.
White House spokesman Jay Carney Wednesday said he had no information on whether Obama is considering Romney for a Cabinet post now that the shuffle is under way.
Boehner: No progress on 'fiscal cliff'
WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- U.S. House Speaker John Boehner Thursday said there has been no progress in negotiations on averting the so-called "fiscal cliff" and blamed President Obama.
The comment came just one day after the White House said the administration won't require tax rates on upper-income Americans to rise to Clinton-era levels in a deficit deal.
"No substantive progress has been made in the talks between the White House and the House during the past two weeks," Boehner, R-Ohio, told a news conference.
"I'm disappointed in where we are and in the last couple of weeks."
On Jan. 1, Bush-era tax cuts expire and draconian mandatory budget cuts kick in, a combination economists warn will send the U.S. economy back into recession.
Senate Minority Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was even more negative following a meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and White House lobbyist Rob Nabors, saying the administration "took a step backward, moving away from consensus."
Obama has said spending cuts must be coupled with increased revenue and the easiest way to raise revenues is to allow marginal income tax rates to rise on the top 2 percent of taxpayers. Republicans are resisting tax increases on incomes of more than $250,000 a year.
Boehner said Obama needs to outline concessions to jump start the talks.
Pfc. Manning testifies at Army hearing
FORT MEADE, Md., Nov. 29 (UPI) -- U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning testified at a pretrial hearing Thursday amid reports he will plead to some charges.
Wearing his Army uniform and wire-rimmed glasses, Manning, 24, testified at Fort Meade, Md., about alleged abuse he suffered while held at the brig at Quantico Marine Corps base from July 2010 until April 2011, CNN reported.
Meanwhile, Manning's defense team said it plans to have him plead guilty to lesser charges than leaking thousands of classified government documents to the online whistle-blower website WikiLeaks.
He could receive a life sentence if convicted on all charges at his military court martial.
A military judge said any new charges against Manning would have to be filed before he could plead to lesser charges, CNN said. Manning's defense lawyers also want the time he has served in military confinement counted as time served in his eventual sentence.
Manning was moved from Quantico to the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., in April 2011.
Rebels claim Baath party official dead
DAMASCUS, Syria, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- A member of Syria's ruling Baath party and three bodyguards died in a car bombing near his house in Daraa Thursday, activists said.
While state-run media only reported a deadly bombing occurred in Daraa, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Hussain Rifai was among the victims, the Gulf News reported.
Daraa is considered ground zero in the uprising against President Bashar Assad that began in March 2011.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights said 69 people died in fighting Thursday, including 18 children. The highest toll was in Aleppo where 35 died, followed by Damascus and its environs with 12. Six died in Dier al-Zoor, four in Hama, three in Homs and one each in Idlib and al-Raqqah.
Meanwhile, activists said rebels began an assault on Wadi Daif, one of the few army bases in northwestern Syria still in the hands of the government. Rebels in recent weeks have taken over several military installations and seized a cache of weapons.
Activists reported government troops shelled rebel positions near Tishrin dam, captured earlier this week by insurgents, in Aleppo province.
Outages across Syria's routed network Thursday took down all of the country's Internet service, the Web-monitoring service Renesys said.
Former Pres. George H.W. Bush hospitalized
HOUSTON, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush has been in a Houston hospital for a week, being treated for a persistent cough, his office said Thursday.
The 88-year-old former president's chief of staff, Jean Becker, said the condition was not considered life-threatening, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Concerns that the cough would develop into pneumonia have eased and Bush was expected to be discharged this weekend, she said.
"President Bush is in the hospital," Becker said. "We have kept this quiet out of respect for him."
Becker said Bush had made repeated visits to Methodist Hospital in recent weeks, and was most recently admitted on the day after Thanksgiving, the newspaper said.
"His big problem is a chronic cough he can't get rid of so he's back at Methodist," Becker said. "This is not a life-threatening illness."
Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, have been among the elder Bush's visitors.
George H.W. Bush was vice president for two terms under President Ronald Reagan before serving as president from 1989-1993.
Prep coach allegedly witnessed hazing
DES PLAINES, Ill., Nov. 29 (UPI) -- A Chicago-area prep soccer coach didn't just know team freshmen were hazed and sodomized, he allegedly witnessed it and congratulated the victim, police said.
A mother of one of three boys on the Maine West High School soccer team in Des Plaines, Ill., a north Chicago suburb, has filed suit against the school, the coach, Michael Divincenzo, principal Audrey Haugan and Maine Township Schools Superintendent Ken Wallace -- all of whom the boy's mother said were aware of the sexual assaults her son and others had endured and failed to act.
Des Plaines police were told Divincenzo had allegedly watched as seniors on the team tore off a freshman's pants, held him down and sodomized him with their fingers and a stick following a Sept. 27 team practice, the Chicago Sun-Times said Thursday. When the incident was over, Divincenzo congratulated the victim and "and asked him if it was all good."
Des Plaines police said six juveniles were referred to family court following their investigation into the allegations. The department declined to offer details of the charges because all involved are minors, the Chicago Tribune said.
Divincenzo and another coach have been barred from coaching and temporarily reassigned by the district. He has not been charged with any crimes. The family's lawsuit seeks to have all the adults in question fired, along with unspecified monetary damages.
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